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Habitat partnership in Macedonia No. 3 in global development competition

January 31, 2008

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Kija Patarov and wife Verka renovated their home outside Strumica, Macedonia, with a microfinance loan from Habitat Macedonia and Opportunity International. The Patarovs repaired a leaking roof, installed running water and a sewage system, added insulation and replaced damp and damaged plaster walls.

A microfinance partnership including Habitat for Humanity Macedonia earned third-place honors in a worldwide competition for the most innovative development project of 2007.

The Global Development Network, a World Bank-affiliated research-and-development institution chaired by former Mexico president Ernest Zedillo, announced the winners Jan. 31 during the 9th annual Global Development Conference in Brisbane, Australia.

Habitat for Humanity Macedonia and Opportunity International’s Moznosti microfinance branch launched a partnership in 2005 called the Home Improvement Fund. The joint effort takes aim at putting a dent in poverty housing in Macedonia via small loans for construction and community development. The program also targets volunteer engagement and advocacy.

Macedonia, in Europe’s Balkan peninsula, suffers from 36 percent unemployment. About 110,000 housing units – roughly 16 percent of the nation’s housing stock – requires immediate reconstruction due to poor building methods, poor maintenance and lack of sanitation.

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Levent Edipov (foreground) works on renovating a home in Veles, Macedonia, that he, his wife and three children will soon share with his in-laws. The Roma family participates in Habitat Macedonia’s Home Improvement Fund, a microfinance program in partnership with Opportunity International that lends small amounts to families seeking to improve the condition of their homes.

The Home Improvement Fund was among 230 proposals from about 100 countries, with projects ranging from providing safe drinking water in India, to supporting vulnerable women and youth victims of crimes in Rwanda, to building solid waste management systems in Peru.

In the Macedonia partnership, Habitat for Humanity Macedonia determines the target group, provides construction advice and does construction monitoring. Moznosti screens clients’ financial reliability, processes the loans and is responsible for repayments.

Typical loans range from USD $2,400 to USD $5,000, with 60-month repayment terms. The partnership expects to have loaned USD $2.3 million by 2010.

Zoran Kostov, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Macedonia, accepted the award in Brisbane.